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Houston Zoo Cares for Valuable New Gem ‘Opal’

1_Houston Nyala Opal

Opal is one of four baby Nyala born at the Houston Zoo over the past two months, and keepers have formed a special attachment to the new calf. 

2_Houston Nyala Opal

3_Houston Nyala Opal

4_Houston Nyala OpalPhoto Credits: Houston Zoo

The Zoo’s keeper team noticed, soon after she was born on August 25, that she wasn’t nursing very well from mom, Ruby. They quickly intervened and taught the calf to bottle-feed, but kept her living with her mother so the pair could continue to bond behind-the-scenes. Soon, however, the keepers saw Opal nursing from Ruby! Recently, the team ended all bottles for Opal, and she is continuing to successfully nurse from mom. Opal now eats solid food, as well, which includes grain, hay, and produce.

Opal and her mom will continue to stay in their barn for a few more weeks, but guests and Zoo members can see the other three new Nyala frolicking around the yard, every day, at the Houston Zoo’s West Hoofed Run. Additional baby Nyala include: Wallace (mom Willow), born July 29; Fancy (mom Lola), August 12; and Fern (mom Ivy), September 8.

The Nyala (Tragelaphus angasil), also called inyala, are mid-sized members of the antelope family. Native to southern Africa, the spiral-horned males can weigh up to 275 pounds, and females weigh up to 150 pounds. When born, Nyala generally weigh around 10 pounds.

The Nyala is a herbivore and their diet consist, mainly, of foliage, fruits, flowers, and twigs. During the rainy season, they prefer fresh grasses. They choose to reside near water sources; however, they are adapted to live in areas with only seasonal availability of water.

Nyala breed throughout the year, but mating peaks in the spring and autumn. Females reach sexual maturity at 11 to 12 months and males at about 18 months of age. Gestation is about seven months. Nyala usually give birth to a single calf and will hide the newborn away for about 18 days. The calf will remain with mother till the birth of the next calf.

The species is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their major threats are hunting, habitat loss, agriculture and cattle grazing. Today, over 80% of the total wild population is protected in national parks and sanctuaries, mostly in South Africa.

5_Houston Nyala Opal

6_Houston Nyala Opal

7_Houston Nyala Opal

8_Houston Nyala Opal